Ottolenghi’s Saffron Couscous with Dried Apricots and Butternut Squash

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Who knew that I’d actually come back here to put up a post. I’d sort of decided to drop the blog (for a while or forever I was not too sure) because work was too hectic for me to have much of a virtual life beyond Facebook and Twitter. I haven’t even had time to sort through photographs from Kyoto and post up all those lovely desserts I so wanted to share with all of you. Lots of the snacks I brought home have been gobbled up without a photograph being taken which means a valuable post lost but more sleep time for me. I’ve been so overworked my Friday nights are highly treasured, weekends are magical (well really I don’t have much of it since there’s work to take home as well), sleep is never 100% recovery time and people tell me I’ve lost weight.

Anyway, today’s my Mama Diva’s birthday and luckily enough, I have a day off! On a day off, the irony, however, is that I’m still as busy as ever running around searching for flowers, arranging them into a nice vase, buying groceries, taking my lil sister to lunch, preparing the ingredients etc. for the dinner menu I’ve planned tonight. Well you can definitely say I’m keeping busy.

And, my ol’ Canon Powershot is still sitting on my shelf covered in soddingly thick layer of dust. Shame on me. Let me just update you on my resolution for 2012 though. I intend to purchase a d-slr. A cheap one. FINALLY. Right, talk about dear ol’ Dave (me) finally going ahead to invest in something worthwhile. For now, this busy bee is resorting to lazy but well-trusted methods via the BLACKBERRY BOLD camera. All photos in this post have been taken on my little mobile. And I’m impressed.

I’m also very impressed with this recipe. It doesn’t look like much and almost seems to pale in comparison to the moroccan couscous which I so adore (and those recipes always look a heck lot more complicated). A spoonful of this, however, shocked me. It is full-flavoured. A little savoury from the chicken stock, a little sweet from the apricot but warm and soothing altogether. I used red onions as well instead of white to get a caramelized taste and give it a little more colour. I’m glad I did. This is what I wanted to share with you really – just a really good and simple quick recipe from the most-loved Ottolenghi.

Enjoy.

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Ottolenghi’s Couscous with Dried Apricots and Butternut Squash
Ingredients

      1 large (red) onion, thinly sliced

 

      6 tbs olive oil

 

      50g dried apricots

 

      1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2 cm dice

 

      250g couscous

 

      400ml chicken or vegetable stock

 

      a pinch of saffron strands

 

      3 tbs roughly chopped tarragon

 

      3 tbs roughly chopped mint

 

      3 tbs roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

 

      1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

 

      grated zest of 1 lemon

 

    coarse sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180d Celsius.

Place onion in a large frying pan with 2 tbs oil and a pinch of salt. Sauté over high heat, stirring constantly for about 10 mins (I used less time), until golden brown. Set aside.

Pour hot water from the tap over the apricots just to cover them. Soak for 5 mins then drain and cut them into 5mm dice.

Mix the diced squash in 1 tbs olive oil and spread out on a baking tray to roast. Place in oven for 25 mins, until lightly coloured and quite soft.

While waiting for the butternut squash to cook, cook the couscous. Bring the stock to the boil with the saffron. Place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl and pour the boiling stock over it, plus the remaining olive oil (3 tbs). Cover with clingfilm and leave for about 10 mins for all of the liquid to be absorbed. When done, fluff with up with a fork. Then add the onions, squash, apricots, herbs, cinnamon and lemon zest. Mix well with hands, trying not to mash the squash to bits.

Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve warmish of cold.

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